Review: Axceler ControlPoint

As many of you know, SharePoint is very easy to deploy. That often results in a proliferation of SharePoint installations that busy IT pros have to manage. Granted, some management tools are included with SharePoint, but for now those management tools are somewhat limited. As the footprint of your SharePoint deployment grows, you need better tools to help you manage it. We'll take a look at one product that promises to help you manage your growing SharePoint infrastructure: Axceler ControlPoint.

A Control Point for SharePoint
The Axceler website bills ControlPoint as a management tool that lets you "explore, protect, analyze and control your SharePoint environment." Axceler goes about that by bolstering the native capabilities of SharePoint in the areas of governance policy enforcement, content management, permissions management, the ability to easily move sites and site collections, as well as analysis of user activity and storage requirements.

Installing ControlPoint was straightforward, and includes options for deploying the tool to single farm or multi-farm SharePoint deployments. Getting the software legal and working is a several step process. After you complete the install, you will see the “Manage Control Point license” tool. Even though you have the software key, you will have to use this tool to generate a license request code. Email this code to Axceler, and they'll email you back a license file in .bin format, which can then be imported into the license control tool. Specific instructions about this process aren't provided, so I had to spend a little time on this task to get the software working. After the license file is installed the license information is recorded and you can run ControlPoint.

When you first start the application you'll need to do a full SharePoint discovery to find all of your SharePoint servers before you can start running queries and reports. After this process is complete you can run a SharePoint summary report to see all the SharePoint servers running in your environment.

Moving Sites and Site Collections
Some of my favorite ControlPoint tools deal with moving sites and site collections. From an admin’s view the ability to move sites and groups of sites from one site collection to another is very helpful, but moving them from farm to farm is a task that ControlPoint can really help with.

One common problem is that a SharePoint site user will have security problems with accessing parts of a site collection. ControlPoint provides tools to analyze the security problems and allow an admin to make a fast problem resolution. Administrators may often trust another IT pro to manage a SharePoint site collection, but granting large amounts of control can also create big problems. ControlPoint helps alleviate these problems by providing a robust alerting system that makes you aware of urgent issues like deleted sites or broken security inheritance.

Another issue ControlPoint can solve is that of orphaned SharePoint users. There may be users that have content access rights to a particular SharePoint farm, but they have been disabled or removed from AD. ControlPoint provides a tool that can find and report these orphan users and allow you to manage or remove their access.

Some companies will have documents that are extremely valuable and compliance requirements may require a history to be kept of what the security settings have been since those documents were added to the document library. Out of the box, SharePoint doesn't provide a way to clone permissions from several site collections to a single user with just a few mouse clicks. ControlPoint lets you perform that procedure by using a duplicate user permissions process.

Axceler ControlPoint
PROS: Has strong tools for managing large deployments; integrates well with existing SharePoint user interface; the ability to manage user permission levels is nicely implemented.
CONS: Expensive for small deployments; requires some substantial SharePoint knowledge to really take advantage of the tools.
RATING: 4 out of 5
RECOMMENDATION: ControlPoint isn't for new SharePoint farms with a few users; the product is designed for larger SharePoint farms and provides the tools and intelligence to help you manage and monitor large farms effectively.
CONTACT: Axceler • • 866-499-7092

ControlPoint can generate comprehensive site reports that give managers and administrators information about all the users with access in a SharePoint farm and the content and data access levels they have. For example, you can generate a report on a single user to see what their access permissions are on a specific SharePoint site. An intuitive interface lets you navigate through SharePoint sites, lists, and users. ControlPoint's interface integrates well with SharePoint. I liked this integration because a new administrator can drill through the conventional SharePoint management screens, and rely on the ControlPoint power tools to perform operations on a critical Share Point application. While the interface is helpful, ControlPoint isn't for novices: Some SharePoint knowledge is needed to realize the full potential f this product.

Licensing Costs
ControlPoint is licensed based on the size of the environment being managed. Two components are factored that determine the cost: The first is the number of SharePoint web front ends and second by SharePoint user. ControlPoint uses a perpetual licensing model. For the product to be of value to you, would depend on the size and activity of your farm. For an average Farm with multiple Web Front End servers, the cost for Control Point would be $12,000 ($10,000 for software, plus $2000 for year one of maintenance, so for new deployments with just a few users, I would spend my resources sharpening Share Point administration skills. But when your SharePoint farm grows, ControlPoint provides the tools and intelligence to help you managing and monitoring your deployment effectively.

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